The high cost of health care seems out of control, but there are things you can do to help keep your costs as low as possible.
These five suggestions from CNNMoney.com could help lower the tab:
- Negotiate the bill. Call your insurance company's customer service number and ask what rate it pays to local physicians; typically, those rates are lower than the provider's sticker price. Armed with that information, ask your physician to accept a similar amount, particularly if you're paying out of pocket or you're faced with a steep deductible.
- Research the costs. You can find the costs for 30 common hospital procedures at cms.hhs.gov/HealthCareConInit, the Web site of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. This information will put you in a better position to negotiate discounts. Also, medical cost reports are available for $7.95 from HealthGrades.com, a ratings company. Consumers in some areas of the country can search for rates on Web sites of large insurers such as Aetna, Cigna, and United Healthcare.
- Pay in advance. Ask your doctor if you can have a 10% discount if you pay up front, in cash. Most doctors lose thousands of dollars each year on unpaid bills, and they spend thousands of dollars on credit card processing fees. Those doctors are more likely to negotiate to lower their own costs.
- Watch for errors. It's estimated that as many as eight out of 10 hospital bills contain mistakes, increasing your costs by 25% on average. Experts advise you keep track of every test and every medication, and check them against your medical file. Order your medical file from the hospital's billing office. If you find a discrepancy, send a certified letter to your insurer explaining the mistake and attach documentation.
- Check up before you check in. Make sure the radiologists, anesthesiologists, and other health-care specialists are in the same insurance network as the doctor who admits you. Some health-care professionals don't always access the same insurance, which could boost your bill.
Published July 31, 2007